Scottish planning policy

Policy statement on how nationally important land use planning matters should be addressed across the country.

A Connected Place

Promoting Sustainable Transport and Active Travel

NPF Context

269. The spatial strategy set out in NPF3 is complemented by an ongoing programme of investment in transport infrastructure. The economy relies on efficient transport connections, within Scotland and to international markets. Planning can play an important role in improving connectivity and promoting more sustainable patterns of transport and travel as part of the transition to a low carbon economy.

Policy Principles

270. The planning system should support patterns of development which:

  • optimise the use of existing infrastructure;
  • reduce the need to travel;
  • provide safe and convenient opportunities for walking and cycling for both active travel and recreation, and facilitate travel by public transport;
  • enable the integration of transport modes; and
  • facilitate freight movement by rail or water.

271. Development plans and development management decisions should take account of the implications of development proposals on traffic, patterns of travel and road safety.

Key Documents


Development Planning

272. Development plans should take account of the relationship between land use and transport and particularly the capacity of the existing transport network, environmental and operational constraints, and proposed or committed transport projects.

273. The spatial strategies set out in plans should support development in locations that allow walkable access to local amenities and are also accessible by cycling and public transport. Plans should identify active travel networks and promote opportunities for travel by more sustainable modes in the following order of priority: walking, cycling, public transport, cars. The aim is to promote development which maximises the extent to which its travel demands are met first through walking, then cycling, then public transport and finally through use of private cars. Plans should facilitate integration between transport modes.

274. In preparing development plans, planning authorities are expected to appraise the impact of the spatial strategy and its reasonable alternatives on the transport network, in line with Transport Scotland's DPMTAG guidance. This should include consideration of previously allocated sites, transport opportunities and constraints, current capacity and committed improvements to the transport network. Planning authorities should ensure that a transport appraisal is undertaken at a scale and level of detail proportionate to the nature of the issues and proposals being considered, including funding requirements. Appraisals should be carried out in time to inform the spatial strategy and the strategic environmental assessment. Where there are potential issues for the strategic transport network, the appraisal should be discussed with Transport Scotland at the earliest opportunity.

275. Development plans should identify any required new transport infrastructure or public transport services, including cycle and pedestrian routes, trunk road and rail infrastructure. The deliverability of this infrastructure, and by whom it will be delivered, should be key considerations in identifying the preferred and alternative land use strategies. Plans and associated documents, such as supplementary guidance and the action programme, should indicate how new infrastructure or services are to be delivered and phased, and how and by whom any developer contributions will be made. These should be prepared in consultation with all of the parties responsible for approving and delivering the infrastructure. Development plans should support the provision of infrastructure necessary to support positive changes in transport technologies, such as charging points for electric vehicles.

276. Where public transport services required to serve a new development cannot be provided commercially, a contribution from the developer towards an agreed level of service may be appropriate. The development plan action programme should set out how this will be delivered, and the planning authority should coordinate discussions with the public transport provider, developer, Transport Scotland where appropriate, and relevant regional transport partnerships at an early stage in the process. In rural areas the plan should be realistic about the likely viability of public transport services and innovative solutions such as demand-responsive public transport and small-scale park and ride facilities at nodes on rural bus corridors should be considered.

277. Disused railway lines with a reasonable prospect of being reused as rail, tram, bus rapid transit or active travel routes should be safeguarded in development plans. The strategic case for a new station should emerge from a complete and robust multimodal transport appraisal in line with Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance. Any appraisal should include consideration of making best use of current rail services; and should demonstrate that the needs of local communities, workers or visitors are sufficient to generate a high level of demand, and that there would be no adverse impact on the operation of the rail service franchise. Funding partners must be identified. Agreement should be reached with Transport Scotland and Network Rail before rail proposals are included in a development plan or planning application and it should be noted that further technical assessment and design work will be required before any proposed new station can be confirmed as viable.

278. While new junctions on trunk roads are not normally acceptable, the case for a new junction will be considered where the planning authority considers that significant economic growth or regeneration benefits can be demonstrated. New junctions will only be considered if they are designed in accordance with DMRB and where there would be no adverse impact on road safety or operational performance.

279. Significant travel-generating uses should be sited at locations which are well served by public transport, subject to parking restraint policies, and supported by measures to promote the availability of high-quality public transport services. New development areas should be served by public transport providing access to a range of destinations. Development plans should indicate when a travel plan will be required to accompany a proposal for a development which will generate significant travel.

280. Along with sound choices on the location of new development, appropriate street layout and design are key are to achieving the policy principles at paragraph 270. The design of all new development should follow the placemaking approach set out in this SPP and the principles of Designing Streets, to ensure the creation of places which are distinctive, welcoming, adaptable, resource efficient, safe and pleasant and easy to move around and beyond.

281. National maximum parking standards for certain types and scales of development have been set to promote consistency (see Annex B: Parking Policies and Standards). Where an area is well served by sustainable transport modes, planning authorities may set more restrictive standards, and where public transport provision is limited, planning authorities may set less restrictive standards. Local authorities should also take account of relevant town centre strategies when considering appropriate parking provision (see paragraphs 64-65 and Annex A: Town Centre Health Checks and Strategies).

282. When preparing development plans, planning authorities should consider the need for improved and additional freight transfer facilities. Strategic freight sites should be safeguarded in development plans. Existing roadside facilities and provision for lorry parking should be safeguarded and, where required, development plans should make additional provision for the overnight parking of lorries at appropriate locations on routes with a high volume of lorry traffic. Where appropriate, development plans should also identify suitable locations for new or expanded rail freight interchanges to support increased movement of freight by rail. Facilities allowing the transfer of freight from road to rail or water should also be considered.

283. Planning authorities and port operators should work together to address the planning and transport needs of ports and opportunities for rail access should be safeguarded in development plans. Planning authorities should ensure that there is appropriate road access to ferry terminals for cars and freight, and support the provision of bus and train interchange facilities.

284. Planning authorities, airport operators and other stakeholders should work together to prepare airport masterplans and address other planning and transport issues relating to airports. Relevant issues include public safety zone safeguarding, surface transport access for supplies, air freight, staff and passengers, related on- and off-site development such as transport interchanges, offices, hotels, car parks, warehousing and distribution services, and other development benefiting from good access to the airport.

285. Canals, which are scheduled monuments, should be safeguarded as assets which can contribute to sustainable economic growth through sensitive development and regeneration. Consideration should be given to planning for new uses for canals, where appropriate.

Development Management

286. Where a new development or a change of use is likely to generate a significant increase in the number of trips, a transport assessment should be carried out. This should identify any potential cumulative effects which need to be addressed.

287. Planning permission should not be granted for significant travel-generating uses at locations which would increase reliance on the car and where:

  • direct links to local facilities via walking and cycling networks are not available or cannot be made available;
  • access to local facilities via public transport networks would involve walking more than 400m; or
  • the transport assessment does not identify satisfactory ways of meeting sustainable transport requirements.

Guidance is available in Transport Assessment and Implementation: A Guide[124]

288. Buildings and facilities should be accessible by foot and bicycle and have appropriate operational and servicing access for large vehicles. Cycle routes, cycle parking and storage should be safeguarded and enhanced wherever possible.

289. Consideration should be given to how proposed development will contribute to fulfilling the objectives of Switched On Scotland - A Roadmap to Widespread Adoption of Plug-in Vehicles. Electric vehicle charge points should always be considered as part of any new development and provided where appropriate.

290. Development proposals that have the potential to affect the performance or safety of the strategic transport network need to be fully assessed to determine their impact. Where existing infrastructure has the capacity to accommodate a development without adverse impacts on safety or unacceptable impacts on operational performance, further investment in the network is not likely to be required. Where such investment is required, the cost of the mitigation measures required to ensure the continued safe and effective operation of the network will have to be met by the developer.

291. Consideration should be given to appropriate planning restrictions on construction and operation related transport modes when granting planning permission, especially where bulk material movements are expected, for example freight from extraction operations.

Supporting Digital Connectivity

NPF Context

292. NPF3 highlights the importance of our digital infrastructure, across towns and cities, and in particular our more remote rural and island areas. Our economy and social networks depend heavily on high-quality digital infrastructure. To facilitate investment across Scotland, planning has an important role to play in strengthening digital communications capacity and coverage across Scotland.

Policy Principles

293. The planning system should support:

  • development which helps deliver the Scottish Government's commitment to world-class digital connectivity;
  • the need for networks to evolve and respond to technology improvements and new services;
  • inclusion of digital infrastructure in new homes and business premises; and
  • infrastructure provision which is sited and designed to keep environmental impacts to a minimum.

Key Documents


Development Planning

294. Local development plans should reflect the infrastructure roll-out plans of digital communications operators, community groups and others, such as the Scottish Government, the UK Government and local authorities.

295. Local development plans should provide a consistent basis for decision-making by setting out the criteria which will be applied when determining planning applications for communications equipment. They should ensure that the following options are considered when selecting sites and designing base stations:

  • mast or site sharing;
  • installation on buildings or other existing structures;
  • installing the smallest suitable equipment, commensurate with technological requirements;
  • concealing or disguising masts, antennas, equipment housing and cable runs using design and camouflage techniques where appropriate; and
  • installation of ground-based masts.

296. Local development plans should set out the matters to be addressed in planning applications for specific developments, including:

  • an explanation of how the proposed equipment fits into the wider network;
  • a description of the siting options (primarily for new sites) and design options which satisfy operational requirements, alternatives considered, and the reasons for the chosen solution;
  • details of the design, including height, materials and all components of the proposal;
  • details of any proposed landscaping and screen planting, where appropriate;
  • an assessment of the cumulative effects of the proposed development in combination with existing equipment in the area;
  • a declaration that the equipment and installation is designed to be in full compliance with the appropriate ICNIRP guidelines for public exposure to radiofrequency radiation[131]; and
  • an assessment of visual impact, if relevant.

297. Policies should encourage developers to explore opportunities for the provision of digital infrastructure to new homes and business premises as an integral part of development. This should be done in consultation with service providers so that appropriate, universal and future-proofed infrastructure is installed and utilised.

Development Management

298. Consideration should be given to how proposals for infrastructure to deliver new services or infrastructure to improve existing services will contribute to fulfilling the objectives for digital connectivity set out in the Scottish Government's World Class 2020 document. For developments that will deliver entirely new connectivity - for example, mobile connectivity in a "not spot" - consideration should be given to the benefits of this connectivity for communities and the local economy.

299. All components of equipment should be considered together and designed and positioned as sensitively as possible, though technical requirements and constraints may limit the possibilities. Developments should not physically obstruct aerodrome operations, technical sites or existing transmitter/receiver facilities. The cumulative visual effects of equipment should be taken into account.

300. Planning authorities should not question the need for the service to be provided nor seek to prevent competition between operators. The planning system should not be used to secure objectives that are more properly achieved under other legislation. Emissions of radiofrequency radiation are controlled and regulated under other legislation and it is therefore not necessary for planning authorities to treat radiofrequency radiation as a material consideration.



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